Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean – A Review

Daring and the Duke Sarah Maclean

Daring and the Duke (The Bareknuckle Bastards #3) by Sarah MacLean
Romance | Historical Fiction | Regency
Published by Avon
Released June 30th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

2020 has been the year that I’ve started to explore the romance genre, and boy, am I loving it! Sarah MacLean’s third book in her Bareknuckle Bastards series, Daring and the Duke, is the first Regency romance I’ve ever read.

I haven’t read the first two books in the series, which is fine – while I’m sure you’d understand the characters’ backstories a bit better after reading them, Daring and the Duke is a self-contained story. That said, I will be going back and getting the first two now that I’ve fallen in love with the third.

Sarah MacLean
Sarah MacLean

The book centers around Grace Condry, known to the world as Dahlia, who runs an underground nightclub for women wanting to spice up their sex lives. We also follow Ewan, the Duke of Marwick, who wants nothing more than to have Grace’s heart. Grace has plenty of reason to hate the Duke, however, so is understandably reluctant.. somewhat, anyway. hint hint.

While I was honestly expecting more steamy scenes (there are really only two such scenes in the book), I really enjoyed the storytelling. I was intrigued by many of the side characters, such as Grace’s brothers Devil and Whit, while being drawn into the drama between the two main characters.

Grace’s character was strong and sexy, although at times I think she was being too lenient with Ewan and his past mistakes – and his mistakes were major. I understand her forgiveness and learning that she still loves him, but I feel like he should have fought for it a little bit more. Likewise, Ewan’s reconciliation with Devil and Whit was too easy.

The tension between Grace and Ewan was intense and wonderful. It’s a very slow-burn, hate-to-love, second-chance romance, and by the end of the story I was definitely rooting for them to get together.

The alternating timelines and narratives were easy to follow. We get the story from both Grace and Ewan and learn of current and past events. It smoothly transitions from one scene to the next.

The steamy scenes? They were perfect. As I mentioned before, though, I would have been okay with more sexy times.

As someone who is not usually a fan of regency romance or historical romance, Sarah MacLean managed to hold my attention and make me swoon over the story. I can’t wait to read her other past books, as well as anything she releases in the future!

Thank you to Avon for sending me a finished copy for review.




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Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats – A Review

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Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats
Young Adult | Historical Fiction
Published by Candlewick Press
Released March 10th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my opinions.

The cover of Spindle and Dagger is gorgeous, and that’s what initially drew me to this novel. Then I learned that it was a historical fiction novel set in Wales in the 1110s, and I was absolutely down to read it. I love historical fiction, especially when it takes place somewhere that I’ve never been to. I had a feeling that I would really enjoy this novel.

Spindle and Dagger follows Elen, a teenage girl who watched her family be murdered by a warband and who convinced the leader said warband, Owain ap Cadwgan, that she could keep him alive through her connection with Saint Elen. While Elen’s basic needs are provided for, it is not an easy life. Her position hinges on Owain staying alive and she has no freedom.

Despite wanting to enjoy this book, I found myself having to push to get through it. I was bored the whole time. The thing is, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with Spindle and Dagger, but it’s just so average. I had no strong feelings about the characters or plot because they were all average. J. Anderson Coat’s writing was just fine.

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J. Anderson Coats

However, a novel being average and fine are not enough for me to enjoy or recommend it.

The story didn’t feel complete to me, but it’s hard for me to put my finger on where exactly it could have been fleshed out a bit more. Again, the storytelling and plot weren’t bad, but there was nothing that stood out as compelling.

Elen has severe PTSD from Owain’s warband raiding her home and murdering her family, and while there are instances within the story where the character has flashbacks, it should have been dealt with more. It seems like an important part of Elen’s character, but it never gets resolved or discussed in any way except in her flashbacks. In the same manner, Elen has also been a victim of rape and sexual assault, and that’s also passed over in the story.

Elen’s character didn’t grow enough during the story for me. From start to finish, she remains weak and timid, only daring to escape the warband when she has the help of someone else. There’s one moment towards the end of the novel where she attempts to take matters into her own hands, but it was hard for me to support her actions because ultimately they helped Owain and his band escape to continue chasing her.

I did think that Coats’ decision to tell the story in the first person from Elen’s point of view was the best way to tell this story. I also appreciated the author including a brief guide at the beginning of the book showing readers how to pronounce Welsh words. It helped a lot because even though Welsh is a beautiful language, it’s not an easy one for English speakers.

I can’t recommend this book because there wasn’t enough in it for me to enjoy. There are much better historical fiction novels on the market. The story was forgettable, and I had trouble recalling some of the names and plot points of the tale just two days after finishing it.


Have you read Spindle and Dagger? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.




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The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee – A Review

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky (Montague Siblings #1.5) by Mackenzi Lee
Historical Fiction | Romance | LGBTQ | Novella | Young Adult
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Released November 26th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

One of my biggest book-related surprises last year was discovering Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Young adult historical fiction was a genre I generally avoided for no real reason, but after seeing this book talked about online, I found myself intrigued enough to pick it up. And boy, am I glad I did.

Lee’s Montague Siblings series has quickly become a favorite of mine, and I pre-ordered The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky as soon as the physical copy was announced. Originally, this novella had been part of a pre-order campaign during the release of The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, but after her fans kept asking for it, her publisher agreed to do a hardcover release of it.

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I haven’t read any of Mackenzi Lee’s non-Montague Siblings books yet (although I definitely want to), but for this particular series, I love how Lee combines humor with serious topics and infuses a bit of magic into her world. All of these books were an absolute delight to read, and I’m already planning on re-reading them when the third book, The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks, is released in mid-2020.

This novella focuses on Monty and Percy, the main characters from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. It takes place after the events in that book and picks up with them living on a beach with Monty’s sister, Felicity, and a group of sailors.

Monty and Percy are life-long best friends who have been in love with one another secretly for years and are finally together as a couple. The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky is about the beginning of their relationship, specifically the first time they, ahem, get lucky.

The story was definitely entertaining, infused with Lee’s humor and the perfect characters that she’s developed. I devoured it in about an hour the same day I received it in the mail, and I really enjoyed it.

I have a difficult time with novellas because I find that I always want more of the story, and that was true of this. I wanted it to continue on so that I could see more of the life that Monty and Percy built together. That said, however, the story was adorable, and is a great example that romances and love-making are not always perfect the way it’s portrayed literally everywhere. Fuck-ups and hilarious things happen, and it’s okay. It’s real life.

Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was that Monty was very respectful of Percy not wanting to jump into sex right away. As this is a young adult book, it was nice to see that and is something that I hope young people pick up on and internalize.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the Montague Siblings series, you’re going to want to read this. However, if those stories didn’t do anything for you, you’ll get absolutely nothing out of this. I enjoyed it, and whenever I do re-reads of the series I’ll read it. I hope more novellas and novels are in the future for this series!


Are you a fan of Mackenzi Lee’s Montague Siblings series? Let me know in the comments!




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Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer – A Review

Mary Toft Dexter Palmer

Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer
Historical Fiction
Published by Pantheon Books
Released November 19th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: I received a free finished copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion.

I feel like I’ve been having an incredible reading month. First, I finally read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a book that’s been on my radar for years, and that I ended up loving. Next, I read Reincarnation Blues, a novel unlike anything I’d ever read before. And now, we have Dexter Palmer’s superb novel, Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen, which questions the nature of truth, reality, and belief.

It wasn’t until a week or so before the release of this novel that I came across a synopsis of it on Edelweiss and immediately reached out to Pantheon Books regarding a review copy. I love absurdity in literature, and when I read that this book was about a woman who baffles the medical community after giving birth to mangled rabbits, I knew right away that I wanted to read this.

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Author Dexter Palmer

Set in early-18th century England, the story begins innocently enough, with a doctor and his young apprentice taking care of the needs of their small country town of Godalming. A man named Joshua Toft asks them to accompany him to his home, where his wife is experiencing an imminent and unexpected birth.

The doctor, John Howard, is a bit suspicious at first, as he’s the only doctor in the area and wasn’t aware of Mary Toft being pregnant, but he and his apprentice grab their tools and head over to help.

That’s when things take a bizarre turn, however, as it’s not a human child that Mary Toft births, but the decapitated corpse of a rabbit. At that point, Dr. Howard and his apprentice, Zachary, are left to puzzle over how such a thing could happen, eventually writing to prominent physicians in London. These well-known doctors, who are so important as to have the ear of the King himself, along with Dr. Howard, try to uncover the truth of the apparent miracle that is happening in Mary Toft’s body.

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The real Mary Toft

Something I didn’t realize until I finished the book and discovered a bibliography in the back is that Palmer’s novel is based on a real event. I was fascinated by the subject’s Wikipedia page, although due to the novel following the real events closely, I would not advise you to do so until after reading Palmer’s book in order to avoid spoilers.

While the plot of Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen is interesting enough to warrant reading it, the themes of the novel ended up being the quality that impressed me the most.

Palmer does a wonderful job of displaying so many innate qualities of humanity. One of the most obvious is how people react to the unknown, specifically in terms of science and religion. Obviously, birthing rabbits is unusual, and once word spreads of Mary Toft’s “ability,” nobility and common folk alike are eager to term it a miracle, a show of proof of God’s existence.

“I find myself asking, in my darker moments: what matter is the unproven nature of an assertion if enough people become convinced of its truth?”

On a darker note, the novel also portrays the depravity of many people. There’s a horrendous scene in the book involving members of London’s high society going to an underground “event” in order to watch acts of extreme animal cruelty and human humiliation. The author makes it clear that it’s easy for people to fall into their lust for darker forms of entertainment and to take pleasure in the misery of others. As an example, at one point Zachary has a conversation with a “gentleman” known to us only as Lord M—- regarding why he participates in such cruelty:

“Humanity, Zachary. At any time in the history of the earth there is exactly enough humanity to go around for each human on earth to have one full share of it, to entitle himself to say he is better than an animal because he walks on two legs, and sings, and invents money…  But if I am very, very rich, and you are not so rich: well, then can take some of yours. This is the last thing that money is good for, once you have as much as I do – to make myself more human, which regrettably but necessarily entails making you less human, by  contrast. 

What I want, Zachary, and what I have yet to see thus far, is to witness a human not merely humiliating himself but doing a thing that he knows only an animal would do, not a human. A final depth of debasement from which one could not return.”

Another aspect of the novel that sets the reader in the patriarchal society of the 1700s, yet still has relevance today, is how women’s bodies are portrayed as curiosities or tools rather than as distinctly human. For most of the ordeal that Mary Toft goes through, she’s not asked by the physicians how she feels or what her opinion in the matter is. The men make all of the decisions regarding her care. It’s not until the end of the novel that we learn more of her internal dialogue and thoughts.

This is a book that will both entertain you and make you ponder questions vital to the human condition. It’s a strange book, to be sure, and knowing that it’s based on a real event makes it stranger still. Dexter Palmer shows his gift of narrative in this novel that will make you proud to have read it.


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Have you read Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen?

Which bizarre or strange historical story would you like to see novelized?

Let me know in the comments!




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The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins – A Review

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
Historical Fiction | Mystery
Published by Harper
Released May 21, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

Let me start this review by saying that the fact that this is Sara Collins’ debut novel absolutely blows my mind. She writes like a seasoned author, and The Confessions of Frannie Langton was such a complex, wonderful, and character-driven novel.

The book begins after our main character, Frannie Langton, is imprisoned for murder, and her being given an opportunity to tell her story. So she begins to write, and we’re introduced to the life of this complicated and courageous character.

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Sara Collins

Frannie Langton began her life as a slave on a sugar plantation in Jamaica, where she is forced to help the master of the house in a number of roles, some of them quite disturbing. She and her master take a ship to London once she’s older, where he gives her to an estranged friend in order to try to obtain his help publishing his “scientific research” on the differentiation between the races. From that point on, she takes up residence with George and Marguerite Benham. She’s no longer a slave, but she works as a maid and then begins to work more closely with Marguerite.

Marguerite and Frannie develop a romantic relationship, something unthinkable at the point of history where this story takes place. It is Marguerite and George that Frannie is accused of murdering, however.

While reading this novel I felt such a range of emotions from rage to pity to disbelief at what Frannie is put up against. As I mentioned before, this novel is exquisitely written and Collins’ words get you deeply invested in the story. It’s a murder mystery that is so much more, the story of a woman who never had a chance due to the color of her skin and gender.

“A man writes to separate himself from the common history. A woman writes to try to join it.”

The only reason I didn’t give this book five stars is that there were a few times throughout the novel where I found the pacing and wording a bit confusing. Otherwise, however, this book tackles so many things: racism, sexism, drug addiction, sex, adultery, and class.

This was a powerful and difficult book to read, but one that I fully recommend to fans of hard-hitting fiction and historical fiction. While the scenes in the novel can make you feel uncomfortable, it’s well worth it. If this is Sara Collins’ debut, I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!


Have you read The Confessions of Frannie Langton? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!


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The Editor by Steven Rowley – A Review

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The Editor by Steven Rowley
Historical Fiction
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Released April 2, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When I received an ARC of this novel and read the synopsis, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it. While I do love historical fiction, this book is focused around a fictional account of an author working with an esteemed editor, Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I usually don’t like novels that rely on celebrities for the plot, and a good portion of this novel is the main character, James Smale, fanboying over working with a Kennedy.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, as I worked my way through the book. The portrayal of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who really was an editor at the end of her life, was very well done and believable. While Smale’s obsession with working alongside her was annoying at times, it took the backseat to the real story of the novel, which was Smales’s crumbling relationship with his mother.

James has a really rough relationship with his mother, and the book he working on is making that divide grow even wider. Jackie encourages James to fix the ending to his novel, and to do this James decides to try to smooth things over with his mother. The family dynamics are really fascinating and make the story very engaging.

At times this novel was slow-moving and I had to find ways to keep myself interested in it. Overall though, I’m glad to have read it. I appreciate the research that Rowley put into developing the character of Jackie Kennedy Onassis as well as the feel of 1990s New York.

As a last little side note, this book made me feel old. It’s hard to believe the 1990s are now so far in the past as to be considered historical fiction. It really doesn’t feel like that long ago. Am I the only person that feels this way?

I’ve heard really amazing things about Rowley’s previous novel, Lily and the Octopus, and based on my pleasant experience with The Editor, I’m definitely adding it to my TBR pile.


Have you read The Editor? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!




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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – A Review

Review of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Goodreads | Amazon
Fantasy | Historical Fiction | Magical Realism
Published by Doubleday
Released September 13, 2011
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

Note: This is a repost. This review was originally published on February 4, 2019. 

I first heard of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus through one of the videos of my favorite booktuber, Hannah at A Clockwork Reader. Since I seem to have very similar reading tastes to her, when she described it as the best book she’d ever read, I figured I’d give it a shot.

While it didn’t end up being my favorite book, I still thought it was absolutely amazing. The best word to describe this novel would be whimsical. Erin Morgenstern’s writing was beautiful without being over the top or too flowery. Everything flowed so nicely.

The synopsis I’m going to share might be a little bit vague, but I truly believe this is one of those books you should go into without knowing too much. I also want to avoid spoilers.

The story follows a traveling circus which is only open at night. No one knows ahead of time where the circus is going to be – it just appears mysteriously one day. The circus is filled with amazing tents of all variety, along with acrobats, fortune tellers, illusionists, and so much more.

The circus is much more than it seems, however, since it serves as a sort of playing field for two magicians, Alexander and Prospero. Each magician raises their “player” who are bound to one another in a competition, even though the players aren’t aware of each other at first and they aren’t even sure what they’re supposed to be doing to win this “competition.”

That’s all that I feel comfortable saying about the plot itself without giving too much away, but you can always read the publisher’s synopsis over on Goodreads.

I want to talk about the atmosphere of The Night Circus, as it was definitely my favorite aspect of the novel. The circus itself sounds beautiful, with everything in shades of black, white, and gray. Then you have the individual tents at the circus, my favorite among them being the Ice Garden. Morgenstern is very talented at making you feel as though you’re standing right in the middle of her landscapes. It’s always so easy to imagine, even when the setting itself is full of magic.

The characters were great, and I found myself loving so many of them. Celia and Marco, for sure, but also Bailey, Poppet, Widget, and so many more. I would say the main draw of this book is the setting, but it’s still just as much a character-driven novel, and most of the characters are well-developed.

The only (very tiny) complaint I had with this novel was that there were times when I felt that things were moving a wee bit too slow. It wasn’t so bad that it hurt the story, but I could understand other readers getting a bit annoyed with the pacing.

From what I’ve read on Goodreads, The Night Circus seems to be a very polarizing book, with people either loving it or hating it. I tend to love slow-paced but beautiful books, so I’m not surprised that I was one of the people who ended up loving it.

Ultimately, while I wouldn’t recommend this novel to everyone, I would recommend it to people looking for something fantastical and whimsical.


Have you read The Night Circus? What were your thoughts?




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The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Book Review of The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee; historical fiction; best books of 2018; what should i read next; great feminist books

“Everyone has heared stories of women like us – cautionary tales, morality plays, warning of what will befall you if you are a girl too wild for this world, a girl who asks too many questions or wants too much. If you set off into the world alone. 

“Everyone has heard stories of women like us, and now we will make more of them.”

The Book

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Amazon | Goodreads
Published by Katerine Tegan Books, a division of Harper Collins
Released October 2, 2018
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Youtube | Instagram

What It Is

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is a sequel/companion novel to Lee’s wonderful The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, one of my favorite books that I had the pleasure of reading in 2018.

The story follows Felicity as she tries to become a doctor in a society that believes women are inferior and have no place in medicine.

After the events of The Gentleman’s Guide, Felicity finds herself working at a bakeshop in Edinburgh to make ends meet. The owner of the shop, Callum, wants to marry Felicity, but Felicity is horrified at the thought and flees to Monty and Percy in London.

While in London, she makes an attempt to petition Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital to take her on as a student. An attempt that goes disastrously, but afterward, when she feels that things are never going to go her way, one of the men run outside after her to advise her to reach out to Alexander Platt, her medical hero, a man whose books she has obsessed over.

Much to the horror of Monty and Percy, she takes off with a pirate girl named Sim to go confront Alexander Platt, who is marrying Felicity’s former best friend, a girl named Johanna who she had a massive falling out with. She takes a serious gamble undertaking this journey – Sim seems rather dangerous as she threatened someone’s life just as the journey is getting started, she hasn’t spoken to Johanna in years, and she has no idea if she’ll even make it in time to get to Platt before he and Johanna leave for their honeymoon. It’s the only chance she has though, so she risks everything for this one last shot of becoming a doctor.

My Thoughts

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Everything about this book is amazing! I loved it just as much as The Gentleman’s Guide and Felicity is a force to be reckoned with. She was one of my favorite parts of The Gentleman’s Guide, so as soon as I found out Lee’s sequel would be told from her perspective, I immediately pre-ordered it.

Lee deals with the sexist attitudes of the 1700s very well, although there are so many difficulties that Felicity encounters that women of today understand all too well, which is quite unfortunate. From the very beginning, when Callum is asking for her hand in marriage, he tells her that her dreams of becoming a doctor are frivolous and something she’ll eventually grow out of. Not only that, but he decides that if she doesn’t accept his proposal, she can find work elsewhere. He also assumes that she’s going to say yes, even though it’s clear that she’s going to say no. Felicity is better than that though:

“I do not want to spend the rest of my life smelling sugar. I don’t want pastry beneath my fingernails and a man content with the hand life has dealt him and my heart a hungry, wild creature savaging me from the inside out.”

All three of the main female characters are well-written and loveable. I’ve already talked a lot about Felicity, but we also have Sim, a tough-as-nails pirate who has sailed with the Crown & Cleaver and is completely fearless; and Johanna, a naturalist who wants to know all there is to know about flora and fauna, while still embracing feminity and pink bows. I adore their relationships with each other and their very distinct personalities. I found myself wanting to be best friends with each one of them.

Felicity’s burning passion to become a doctor is the real star of this book, and it’s a passion that I recognize in myself and in many of the women around me.

“I want to know what it is and how it works and why it saved Sim. When all my indignance over inequality, the plight of women in the world, and the education denied me is boiled away, what is always left is that wanting, hard and spare and alive, like a heart made of bone. I want to know all of it…I want to know how things go wrong. How we break and the best way to put ourselves back together. I want to know it all so badly it feels like a bird trapped inside my chest, throwing its body against my rib cage in search of the strong wind that will carry it out into the world. I would tear myself open if it meant setting it free.”

The characters also all know that they don’t need to be saved by men, that they can save themselves, especially if they work together. Heroic men saving weak women is a trope I loathe, and I love seeing women save themselves in this novel:

“Zounds, does this fool actually think he’s saving me? Another storybook hero to swoop in and rescue a girl from a dragon or a monster or herself – they’re all the same. A woman must be protected, must be sheltered, must be kept from the winds that would batter her into the earth.

“But I am a wildflower and will stand against the gales. Rare and uncultivated, difficult to find, impossible to forget.”

An aspect of Mackenzi Lee’s novels that are particularly amazing is the amount of diversity and representation she writes into her characters. In this series, we meet characters that are queer, black, Muslim, rich, poor, asexual, epileptic, as well as being shown difficult issues such as familial abuse, sexism, homophobia, and addiction.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but one of my favorite things about the books were the creatures that Felicity, Sim, and Joanna are trying to save. They were completely unexpected, and I actually gasped with excitement when they were introduced into the story!

One of the things that I love about both of Mackenzi Lee’s books that I’ve read is that at the end of the book she includes a bit of history and her inspirations for the story. This is something that I wish all books had, and I hope more writers take note of it. It’s always great to understand how a writer came up with a character and to see the historical setting that the book was inspired by.

Verdict

5 out of 5 stars, easily. This is a book you should buy because you’ll end up reading it over and over and over again. If you want to read an empowering book where women fight for themselves and come out on top, go read this one right now.

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Book

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Amazon | Goodreads
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Published: 2017
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, adventure, LGBT
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Youtube | Instagram

What It Is

Set in the 1700s, the story follows Henry Montague (“Monty”), his sister Felicity, and his best friend Percy, as they embark on their grand tour of the European continent. For Monty, this is going to be the last year before he’s forced to help run his father’s estate (a future that he is definitely not keen on) and, also, a year before Percy has to go off to Holland to attend school. Thus, it is supposed to be a year of parties, gambling, drinking, and romancing.

Things do not go as planned, however. In fact, things start going terribly, terribly wrong. They encounter highwaymen and pirates; conspiracies and alchemical cure-alls. The three of them end up having a tumultuous adventure, full of surprises and lucky escapes.

There’s another reason Monty is looking forward to his grand tour – he’s in love with Percy, only Percy doesn’t know it. Alongside the adventure story, we also get to watch the blossoming (and trials) of their relationship.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue deals with several heavy topics that give the book an added dimension. Most obviously, it deals with homosexuality in the 1700s, a time when people could be severely punished for the act. Percy is also bi-racial, and we witness how he gets treated by higher society, and the racism of that time period. There are also underlying themes of child abuse, chronic illness (Percy has epilepsy), and sexism (Felicity is prevented from going to several of the events that Percy and Monty are dragged to, even though she actually wants to go).

The book is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once, and has something for everyone, from fight scenes and romance, to swashbuckling and alchemy.

What I Loved

The relationship between Monty and Percy was spectacular. Every time they fought in the book, or something pulled them apart, I felt it in my heart. I was rooting for their romance throughout the whole book.

All of the main characters were so well-developed, and I really appreciated that in fiction. Despite Monty being self-absorbed, naive, and very spoiled, he’s still relatable. I found myself wanting him to succeed, even when he was making very terrible decisions. Although, at times, I also wanted to reach into the pages, grab him by the shoulders, and shake him whenever he did something spectacularly dumb. A large part of this book is his coming to terms with who he is and his realization of how others see him.

Percy is instantly loveable, and just a genuinely great friend. He puts up with Monty’s foolishness (to a point), and, even when they’re fighting, he’s still there to support him. One of the things that immediately pulled me into loving his character is that he carries around a violin he inherited from his deceased father. My mother died in 2010, and the loss of a parent and the role that their heirlooms play in your remembrance of them really resonated with me.

Then we get to Felicity, who is simply a badass. I can’t wait for the sequel, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, to be released, because it focuses on Felicity’s adventures after the end of The Gentleman’s Guide. Whenever Monty and Percy are panicking and unsure of how to proceed, Felicity comes to their rescue. She also took it upon herself to educate herself in science and medicine, which, due to the times and the feelings of her family, she otherwise would not have been allowed to study.

What I Disliked

This is hard. I spent a good twenty minutes trying to come up with something I could say in this section, but I have nothing. I suppose the only real thing I disliked was that it was too short. I wanted so much more. Luckily, there’s the sequel…

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)

Buy! This was an incredibly fun book to read. I originally downloaded it for my Kindle, but before I was even finished with the book I purchased a physical copy from Amazon because I knew that this was a book I would be going back to several times.

Have you read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? What did you think?